Murder of Selena
|Murder of Selena|
Selena's grave site in Corpus Christi, Texas, where fans have left flowers and coins.
|Location||Days Inn, Corpus Christi, Texas|
|Date||March 31, 1995
11:48 am (CST) (Central Time Zone)
|Target||Selena (possible others)|
|Murder by revolver|
|Weapons||.38 special caliber|
Selena (April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995) was an American musician, spokesperson, actress, and fashion designer, who gained worldwide fame as one of the members of Selena y Los Dinos and for her subsequent solo career. Her father and manager Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. decided to appoint Yolanda Saldívar as president of Selena's fan club in 1991, after Saldívar constantly asked permission to start one. In January 1994, she was promoted to manager of the singer's boutiques. Selena began receiving complaints from employees, her fashion designer, and her cousin about Saldívar's managing styles. In January 1995, Quintanilla, Jr. began receiving phone calls and letters from angry fans who sent in their membership payments and received nothing. He began an investigation and found evidence that Saldívar had embezzled $60,000 in forged checks from the fan club and the boutiques. Saldívar bought a gun after she was confronted by the Quintanilla family. She lured Selena into her Days Inn motel room and shot the singer in the back. After doctors tried to revive Selena for 50 minutes, she was pronounced dead at 1:05 pm (CST) from loss of blood and cardiac arrest.
The Hispanic community were the most affected by the news of the singer's death. Many traveled thousands of miles to the singer's house, boutiques, and the crime scene, while churches with a high population of Hispanics held prayers in her name. All major networks in the United States interrupted their regular programming to break the news. Her death reactions was compared to the reactions following the deaths of musicians John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and US president John F. Kennedy. Some White and European Americans reacted to the news differently, calling the event "not important" and telling Hispanics to "get over it". Radio personality Howard Stern mocked Selena's murder and burial, poked fun at her mourners, criticized her music, and played her songs with gunshots in the background, causing an uproar among the Hispanic population. On April 12, 1995, two weeks after her death, George W. Bush—governor of Texas at the time—declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas. This caused a negative reaction from some Americans who were offended that Selena Day fell on Easter Sunday.
At the time of Selena's death, Tejano music was among the most popular Latin music subgenres in the United States. She was called the "Queen of Tejano music" and became the first Hispanic artist to have a predominately Spanish-language album debut and peak at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart with Dreaming of You (1995). After her death, Tejano music suffered and its popularity waned. Saldívar claimed that in an attempt to end her own life she accidentally shot Selena, but the jury at her trial did not believe her; she was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Selena murder trial was called the "trial of the century" and the most important trial to the Hispanic population. Jennifer Lopez was cast to play the role of Selena in the 1997 biopic film about her life, and was elevated to fame after the film's release. Spanish-language networks often air documentaries on Selena annually marking the anniversary of her death. They are among the most-watched programs in the history of American television, and often score record ratings for networks.
- 1 Events preceding her death
- 2 Murder
- 3 Impact
- 4 Funeral and tributes
- 5 Trial
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Events preceding her death
The Selena fan club
Selena was born on April 16, 1971 in Lake Jackson, Texas to Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., a former musician, and Marcella Ofelia Quintanilla (née Samora). Selena was introduced into the music industry by Quintanilla, Jr. who said in interviews that he saw "a way back into the music business" after discovering Selena's "perfect timing and pitch". He quickly organized his children into a band called Selena y Los Dinos, which included A.B. Quintanilla III on bass, Suzette Quintanilla on drums, and Selena as their lead singer. The band became the family's primary source of income after they were evicted from their home during the Texas oil bust of 1982. They filed for bankruptcy after Quintanilla, Jr.'s Mexican restaurant suffered as a result of the oil bust. The family relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas and Selena y Los Dinos began recording music professionally. In 1984, the band released their first LP record, Selena y Los Dinos, with a small independent record company. Quintanilla, Jr. wanted his children to record Tejano music—a male-dominated music genre popularized by Mexican Americans in the United States. Selena's popularity as a singer grew after she won the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1987. She landed her first major record deal with Capitol EMI Latin in 1989.
In mid-1991, Yolanda Saldívar attended one of Selena's concerts in San Antonio, Texas. Saldívar had become a fan of Tejano music in the mid 1980s. Saldívar disliked Selena because she had won awards over Saldívar's favorite Tejano musicians at the time. She decided to give Selena a try after her niece invited her to the concert. After attending the concert, Saldívar became an ardent fan of Selena and expressed that she enjoyed the singer's stage presence. She especially liked "Baila Esta Cumbia" from Selena. The following day, Saldívar tried searching newsstands for anything to do with the concert as a souvenir, to no avail. She got the idea of starting a Selena fan club in her area since the newspaper was not promoting the singer. According to Quintanilla, Jr. Saldívar tried contacting him and left him a total of 15 messages; Saldívar said she left only three. Quintanilla, Jr. contacted Saldívar who requested his permission to start a fan club in the San Antonio area. Quintanilla, Jr. decided to set up a meeting with Saldívar, during which he approved of her intentions and the two parted with a mutual agreement.
Saldívar became the founder and acting president of the Selena fan club in San Antonio in June 1991. As president, she was responsible for membership benefits, collecting a $22 fee in exchange for members to receive products promoting Selena, a T-shirt bearing the singer's name, exclusive interviews with the band, a fact sheet about Selena y Los Dinos, and notifications of upcoming concerts. Proceeds of the fan club were donated to charities. Suzette was the contact person between Saldívar and the Quintanilla family. She did not meet Selena until December 1991. The two became close friends and she was trusted by the Quintanilla family. Saldívar successfully had more than 8,000 people sign up to the Selena fan club by 1994. According to news reporter and TV anchorwoman María Celeste Arrarás in her book, Saldívar had become Selena's "most efficient assistant" that the singer ever had. She wrote that people noticed how eager Saldívar was in trying to impress Selena, who did anything the singer told her to do. One person told Arrarás that "if Selena would say, 'Jump!', [Saldívar] would jump three times." Saldívar gave up her career as an in-home nurse for patients with terminal cancer and as a nurse who took care of patients with respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, and lung cancer. She decided to fully invest herself to the Selena fan club, although she was earning less than her job as a nurse.
Selena Etc. boutiques
In 1994, Selena opened two boutiques equipped with in-house beauty salons called Selena Etc. in Corpus Christi and one in San Antonio. Quintanilla, Jr. appointed Saldívar as a potential candidate to run the businesses, because the family would be touring the country. He believed Saldívar was the best choice because of her successful job of running the Selena fan club. The family agreed, and in January 1994, Saldívar became the manager of both the Selena fan club and both Selena Etc. boutiques. In September 1994, Selena signed Saldívar as her registered agent in San Antonio, Texas. After being hired for the boutiques, Saldívar moved from South San Antonio to Corpus Christi to be closer to Selena. In an interview with Primer Impacto in 1995, Quintanilla, Jr. expressed that he "always mistrusted Saldívar", though the family never found anything odd about Saldívar's behavior. Saldívar was given authorization of writing and cashing checks and had access to all bank accounts associated with the fan club and boutiques.
Selena gave Saldívar her American Express card for the purpose of conducting company business. Saldívar used the credit card to rent Lincoln Town Cars, entertain associates in fancy restaurants and purchase two cellular phones which she carried. She also altered Ellen Tracy designer jackets made for the boutiques, backing up her authority to do so with the card. Staff members at Selena Etc. complained that Saldívar was always "nice" when Selena was around; when she was not, Saldívar treated everyone terribly. In December 1994, the boutiques began to suffer. The company's bank accounts lacked sufficient funds to pay checks ordered by the bank. Staff at both stores had been reduced from 38 to 14 employees, largely because Saldívar fired anyone she did not personally like. The remaining employees began complaining to Selena about Saldívar, but Selena did not believe that her friend would do anything to hurt her or her business. The employees then began to take their concerns to Quintanilla, Jr., who cautioned Selena that Saldívar might be a dangerous person. Selena did not suspect that Saldívar would turn on her because her father had always distrusted people.
Debra Ramirez, Selena's cousin, was hired to work in the boutiques in January 1995, and to help Selena expand the fashion venture into Mexico. Ramirez quit within a week, telling Saldívar that she was dissatisfied with staff members' failure to report sales. She also found receipts related to the sale of several items from the boutiques missing. Saldívar told her to "mind [her] business" and that it was not her concern. Martin Gomez, fashion designer for Selena, and Saldívar frequently clashed, with Gomez complaining that Saldívar was mismanaging Selena's affairs. Their animosity intensified during Selena's fashion shows; Gomez accused Saldívar of mutilating (or destroying) some of his original creations, and claiming that she never paid bills. Gomez stated that Saldívar had "established a reign of terror", and the two were constantly complaining about each other to Selena. Saldívar began recording Gomez's conversations without his consent. She wanted to convince Selena that Gomez was not looking out for the boutiques' best interest. Gomez was then demoted to supporting role, as Selena was convinced that she should design her clothes on her own. Between late 1994 and early 1995, Saldívar often traveled to Monterrey, Mexico to expedite the process of opening another Selena Etc. store. When Saldívar visited the factory in Mexico, she intimidated the seamstresses by telling them to either leave or side with her.
Selena and Saldívar's relationship
Saldívar was receiving "tokens of affection from [Selena]", which Saldívar was not accustomed to. Saldívar's room was covered with Selena posters and pictures, burning votive candles and a library of Selena videos (which she used to entertain guests). During an interview with Saldívar in 1995, reporters from The Dallas Morning News believed that Saldívar's devotion to Selena bordered on obsession. Employees at Selena Etc. were told by Saldívar that she wanted to "be like Selena". According to an unnamed former employee, Saldívar was "possessive" of her relationship with Selena, who tried to distance Selena from other employees. The unnamed former employee believed that Saldívar's goal was to "have more control over [the employees] and over Selena." Saldívar claimed that her reasons for distancing the employees from Selena were to "shield" the singer from the "petty issues" of managing her boutiques. Among the responsibilities of running the boutiques, Saldívar accompanied Selena on trips and had keys to the singer's house.
When Saldívar became a business associate, their relationship began to fall apart. In September 1994, Selena met Dr. Ricardo Martinez, who lived in Monterrey, Mexico. Selena wanted to mass market her boutiques and wanted to open her Selena Etc. store in Monterrey. According to Martinez, he had contacts in Mexico who could help Selena open a store without being overwhelming for her. Martinez became a business adviser for Selena, though her family disputes any connections Martinez had with Selena besides being a fan who posed in several pictures with her. Saldívar became envious of Selena's dependency on Martinez, who began sending flowers to Selena's hotel room. Saldívar warned the singer that the doctor might have had unprofessional intentions. Selena began visiting Monterrey more frequently in disguise. Sebastian D'Silva, the then-assistant of Martinez, would often pick up Selena from the airport and reported that he noticed she was wearing wigs and using her husband's Chris Pérez's surname so that others would not know who she was. According to Martinez, he had lent several thousand dollars to Selena because she was short on cash.
Saldívar's termination of employment
Starting in January 1995, Quintanilla, Jr. began receiving phone calls and letters from angry fans who claimed to have paid their enrollment fee and had not received the promised memorabilia. Upon investigation, Quintanilla, Jr. discovered that Saldívar had embezzled more than $60,000 in forged checks from both the fan club and the boutiques. Saldívar's brother, Armando Saldívar, supposedly contacted Gomez and "made up a story" that Saldívar was stealing money from the fan club. Gomez then contacted one of Selena's uncles about the phone call who then in turn told Quintanilla, Jr. Armando stated that he was angry with Saldívar about an issue he had with her, he did not want the issue between them to be made public, and later said he felt guilty for starting the rumor. He went on Primer Impacto where reporters found his comments illogical.
Quintanilla, Jr. held a closed meeting the night of March 9, 1995 with Selena and Suzette Quintanilla, at Q-Productions to confront Saldívar. Quintanilla, Jr. presented Saldívar with the inconsistencies concerning the disappearing funds. He reported that Saldívar simply stared at him without answering any of his questions. Quintanilla, Jr. told Saldívar that if she didn't come up with evidence that disproved his accusations, then he was going to get the police involved. When Quintanilla, Jr. asked her why fans were not receiving their promised gift packages, Saldívar claimed that those fans were trying to get them for free. Quintanilla, Jr. found out Saldívar had opened the fan club's bank account under the name "Maria Elida", which was Saldívar's sister. He asked her why she had done so, she replied that the bank did not allow her to open a bank account under her name, which she didn't know why the bank refused to do so. Without saying a word, Saldívar abruptly got up and left the meeting. Quintanilla, Jr. then banned Saldívar from contacting Selena. However, Selena did not want to dissolve their friendship; she felt that Saldívar was essential to whether the clothing line would take off in Mexico. Selena also wanted to keep Saldívar close because she had bank records, statements and financial records necessary for tax preparation.
After the meeting, Quintanilla, Jr. found out that the fan club's checks were signed with Maria Elida's signature, which was identical to Saldívar's handwriting. Quintanilla, Jr.'s conclusion was that Saldívar was writing forged checks using her sister's name and then cashing them and keeping the funds. When Quintanilla, Jr. was trying to retrieve the fan club's bank statements, he reported that they "vanished". A letter found by Quintanilla, Jr. with Saldívar's handwriting was found. In it, the letter states that Maria Elida had to close the bank account because of a major problem. According to the letter, a member of the fan club Yvonne Perales, was sent to the bank to deposit $3,000, however, Perales did not deposit the money and was nowhere to be found. The letter states that Maria Elida found out about the situation "too late" and that Perales and the money were missing, she then wrote checks to be cashed by Saldívar, even though the bank account had no funds. She then explains in the letter for that reason she is closing the account and the bank would have to cover the checks. Quintanilla, Jr. confronted Saldívar about who Perales was, he said that Saldívar did not know anything about her. Quintanilla, Jr. reported that Saldívar did not trust the treasurer of the fan club, but she trusted a complete stranger to deposit three thousand dollars. He told Saldívar to "tell that lie to someone else." He concluded that Perales did not exist since no one who worked in the fan club had ever met her.
Failed attempts to kill Selena
The day after Saldívar was banned from contacting Selena, Quintanilla, Jr. drove to Q-Productions and chased her off the premises. He told her that she was no longer welcome there. The same day, Selena and Saldívar engaged in an argument over the phone; Selena hung up and told Pérez that she could no longer trust Saldívar. According to Quintanilla, Jr., there were four attempts to murder Selena. Selena removed Saldívar's name off the boutique's bank account on March 10, 1995, and she was replaced as fan club president by Irene Herrera. The next day, Saldívar purchased a gun at A Place To Shoot, a gun shop and shooting range in south San Antonio, and bought a Taurus Model 85 snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver. She also bought .38 caliber hollow-point bullets. Hollow-point bullets are specifically designed to expand the type of injury that a normal bullet would inflict, potentially causing more severe damage. Saldívar told the clerk that she needed protection for her job (as an in-home nurse caring for terminally ill patients), because a patient's relatives had threatened her.
On March 13, Saldívar went to her lawyer and wrote her resignation, which Quintanilla, Jr. believed was her alibi. That same day, Saldívar drove to Corpus Christi and checked into the Sand and Sea motel. However, the singer was in Miami, Florida at the time. Quintanilla, Jr. believed this would have been the first attempt to kill Selena. When Selena arrived in Corpus Christi on March 14, Saldívar contacted Selena to schedule a meeting with her. Saldívar told Selena that there was too much traffic and had asked her to meet her at a parking lot, which was 25 miles away from Corpus Christi. Upon arriving, Selena told Saldívar that she could remain in charge of her business affairs in Mexico. According to Quintanilla, Jr., Selena wanted to keep Saldívar until she could find someone else to replace her. Saldívar showed Selena the gun that she bought. Selena told her to "get rid of it" and that she would protect Saldívar from her father, according to Saldívar and Pérez. This, Quintanilla, Jr. believed, had calmed Saldívar down and was the reason why she did not kill Selena at the parking lot. The next day, Saldívar returned the gun, claiming that her father had given her a .22-caliber pistol. On March 26, Saldívar stole a perfume sample and more bank statements from Selena in Mexico.
Saldívar accompanied Selena to her Tennessee trip so that the singer could finish recording one of her songs for her crossover album. Selena told Saldívar that there were bank statements missing and asked her to return them to her as soon as they arrived back to Texas. Saldívar then bought the gun back on March 27 and asked Selena to meet with her alone at a motel room, her second attempt to kill her. When Selena arrived, news about her arrival spread and she was soon mobbed by fans. Quintanilla, Jr. believed that it was her fans who saved her that day as there were "too many witnesses". The third attempt to kill Selena, according to Quintanilla, Jr. was one of Saldívar's trip to Monterrey in the last week of March. Dr. Martinez received phone calls from Saldívar hysterically crying that she had been raped on March 29. The next day, Saldívar made another call to Dr. Martinez, who said that the calls seemed as though someone was snatching the phone away from Saldívar. He sent an employee to Saldívar's motel room to investigate and found out Saldívar had left the motel a few minutes earlier.
On March 30, Saldívar returned from her Monterrey trip and checked into the Days Inn motel. She contacted Selena and told her that she had been raped. According to Quintanilla, Jr. this was the last message they received from Saldívar, which he believed was her new alibi. Saldívar asked Selena to visit her at her motel room alone, however, Perez accompanied her. According to Perez, he waited by his truck as Selena went alone inside Saldívar's motel room. As Perez was driving back to their house, Selena noticed that Saldívar failed to give her the right bank statements she needed. Saldívar tried contacting Selena through her beeper, she desperately wanted the singer to take her to a hospital that night. She told Selena that she was bleeding due to her rape, Quintanilla, Jr. believed that Saldívar was trying to get Selena to return to the motel alone. Pérez told Selena that it was "too late" and did not want her to go out alone. Selena agreed to meet her the next morning, unbeknownst to Pérez.
On March 30, 1995, Selena contacted Leonard Wong about the perfume designs he had made for her. According to Wong, Selena told him that she would be meeting with Saldívar the next morning to pick up the perfume samples she stole from her. She told another employee at the boutiques that same day that she is expecting to fire Saldívar. At 7:30 am (CST) March 31, Selena got out of bed and wore green workout sweats and departed from her home to Saldívar's motel room. At the motel, Saldívar told Selena that she had been raped in Mexico. The singer took her to Doctors Regional Hospital, where medical staff noticed that Saldívar showed symptoms of depression. Saldívar claimed that she bled out "a little" to the doctor. The physician noticed that Selena was angry at Saldívar and told him that she claimed she was bleeding copiously the day before. At the hospital, the doctor did not find any evidence of rape and told Saldívar that she had to go to San Antonio to get a gynecological exam. According to Texas law on rape cases, they were unable to perform the exam because Saldívar was a resident of San Antonio and the rape occurred outside the country. While driving back to the Days Inn motel, Selena told Saldívar that it would be best if they stay apart for a while so that Quintanilla, Jr. would not get mad. According to Dr. Martinez, Selena had tried contacting him that morning but was unable to get to the phone as he was performing surgery. At 10:00 am (CST), Quintanilla, Jr. contacted Pérez regarding the whereabouts of Selena; she was due to record a song at Q-Productions that morning and had not showed up. Pérez called Selena on her cell phone and told her about the scheduled recording, she told him "Oh no, I forgot", and told him that she was "taking care of one last business" and that she would be at Q-Productions soon after. This was the last phone call Selena answered, and was the last time Pérez heard her voice.
Back at the motel room, Selena and Saldívar began arguing. Motel guests complained about loud noises coming from Saldívar's motel room. They said that they heard two women arguing over business-related material. Selena told Saldívar that she could no longer be trusted, and demanded Saldívar give back her financial papers. The singer then dumped Saldívar's satchel that contained bank statements onto the bed and Selena saw the gun. At 11:48 am (CST), Saldívar pointed it at Selena. As Selena attempted to flee, Saldívar shot her once on the right lower shoulder, severing an artery and resulting in a massive loss of blood. Trinidad Espinoza, the hotel's janitor, reported a "loud bang", believing it might have been a light blowout. Critically wounded, Selena ran towards the lobby, leaving a trail of blood 392 feet (119 m) long. She was seen clutching her chest screaming "Help me! Help me! I've been shot!" while Saldívar was still chasing after her with a gun, pointing at her and calling her a "bitch". Selena collapsed on the floor as Barbara Schultz, hotel clerk of the Days Inn, called 9-1-1. The singer identified Saldívar as her assailant and gave the room number where she had been shot. Selena arrived at the lobby at 11:49 am (CST) as Shawna Vela and hotel manager Ruben DeLeon tried stopping the outpouring of blood. Selena's condition began to deteriorate rapidly as motel staff attended to her. Selena screamed to hotel staff telling them to "lock the door, she'll shoot me again". DeLeon tried to talk to her, but noted that she was beginning to fade away; he stated that she was moaning and moving less. DeLeon noticed that Selena's eyes rolled back and that she went limp.
An ambulance arrived at the scene in one minute and 55 seconds. The paramedics ripped the green sweater where the bleeding was taking place and applied a Vaseline gauze to Selena's wound, which stopped the surface bleeding. By now Selena's heartbeat was very slow, and a paramedic performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to keep her blood circulating. According to paramedic Richard Fredrickson, "it was too late" when he arrived in the lobby, finding blood as "thick from her neck to her knees, all the way around on both sides." Fredrickson could not locate a pulse; when he placed his fingers on her neck, he felt only muscle twitches.
During this time, a paramedic tried inserting an IV needle into Selena, but due to the massive blood loss and low (or no) blood pressure, her veins had collapsed making the insertion extremely difficult. Navigation Boulevard was shut down by local police. When paramedics delivered Selena to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital at 12:00 pm (CST), her pupils were fixed and dilated, there was no evidence of neurological function, and she had no vital signs. Doctors were able to establish an "erratic heartbeat" long enough to transfer Selena to the trauma room. Doctors and surgeons began blood transfusions in an attempt to reestablish blood circulation after opening Selena's chest and finding massive internal bleeding. Selena's right lung was damaged, her collarbone was shattered, and her veins were emptied of blood. Doctors widened her chest and administered drugs into her heart and applied pressure on her wounds. Dr. Louis Elkins said that a "pencil-size artery leading from the heart had been cut in two by the hollow-point bullet" and that six units of blood from the transfusion had spilled out and were not in her blood system. After 50 minutes the doctors realized that the damage was irreparable. Selena was pronounced dead at 1:05 pm (CST) from blood loss and cardiac arrest.
Standoff and post-mortem examination
Saldívar got into her pickup truck and attempted to leave the motel after the shooting occurred. Motel employee Rosario Garza saw Saldívar come out of her motel room with a wrapped towel. It was believed that she was on her way to Q-Productions to shoot Quintanilla, Jr. and others who were waiting for Selena to arrive. However, she was spotted by a responding police cruiser. An officer emerged from the cruiser, drew his gun and ordered Saldívar to come out of the truck. Saldívar did not comply. Instead, she backed up and parked adjacent to two cars, with her truck then being blocked in by the police cruiser. Saldívar then picked up the pistol, pointed it at her right temple, and threatened to commit suicide. A SWAT team and the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit were brought in. Musicologist Himilce Novas commented that the event was reminiscent of O.J. Simpson's planned suicide ten months earlier.
Larry Young and Issac Valencia began negotiating with Saldívar. They ran a phone line to their base of operations (adjacent to Saldívar's pickup truck) as the standoff continued. Lead negotiator Young tried to establish a rapport with Saldívar and persuade her to give herself up. Valencia suggested that the shooting was accidental; Saldívar later changed her story, claiming that the "gun went off" by itself. Motel guests were ordered to remain in their rooms until police escorted them out. During the third hour, an autopsy was performed due to overwhelming media interest. It revealed that the bullet had entered Selena's lower back, passed through her chest cavity (severing the right subclavian artery) and exited her right upper chest. Doctors also found that if the bullet had been only one millimeter higher or lower, the wound would not have been as severe.
After the standoff entered its fourth hour, Valencia succeeded in getting Saldívar to confess that she had intended to shoot herself. Saldívar claimed that Selena tried to tell her not to kill herself, while Saldívar pointed the gun to her head. When Selena opened the door to leave, Saldívar stated that she told Selena to close it. Saldívar also claimed that the gun went off when Selena left. During the sixth hour, Saldívar agreed to give herself up; however, when she saw a police officer pointing a rifle at her, she panicked and ran back to her truck, picked up the revolver and placed it on her head again. Saldívar finally surrendered, after nearly nine-and-a-half hours. By that time, hundreds of fans had gathered at the scene; many wept as police took Saldívar away. Within hours of Selena's murder, a press conference was called. Assistant Police Chief Ken Bung and Quintanilla, Jr., informed the press that the possible motive was that Selena went to the Days Inn motel to terminate "her" employment; Saldívar was still unidentified by name in media reports. Rudy Treviño, director of the Texas Talent Music Association and sponsor of the Tejano Music Awards, declared that March 31, 1995 would be known as "Black Friday".
When radio station KEDA-AM broke the news, many people accused the staff of lying, considering the following day after her death was April Fool's Day. In San Antonio, major Spanish-language radio stations (including Tejano 107, KXTN-FM, KRIO-FM and KEDA-AM) began monitoring the developments on Selena's death. All major networks in the United States interrupted their regular programming to break the news. The lead item on national network evening news programs in Corpus Christi had been the end of the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike; within thirty minutes, Selena's murder was the lead item on all television stations in South Texas. Her death was front-page news in The New York Times for two days, and was featured prominently on the BBC World News. News of the singer's death reached Japan, where David Byrne first heard of the shooting. Local news reporters began pouring into the crime scene after hearing of the shooting. Univision and Telemundo were among the first major news stations to have arrived at the crime scene. Newsstands were swarmed for anything concerning Selena. A People magazine issue was released several days after her murder. Its publishers believed that interest would soon wane; they released a commemorative issue within a week when it became apparent that it was growing. The issue sold nearly a million copies, selling the entire first and second run within two weeks. It became a collector's item, a first in the history of People. Betty Cortina, editor of People, told Biography that they never had an issue that was completely sold out; "it was unheard of". In the following months the company released People en Español (aimed at the Hispanic market), due to the success of the Selena issue. This was followed by Newsweek en Espanol and Latina magazine. Puerto Rican American actress Jennifer Lopez was cast to play the role of Selena in the 1997 biopic film about her life, which drew criticism because of her ancestry. After the film's release, fans changed their views on Lopez after seeing her performance in the movie. Lopez was elevated to fame after the film's release.
Selena's life and career was covered by a number of programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, E! True Hollywood Story, VH1's Behind The Music, American Justice, Snapped, and Famous Crime Scene. Other networks to have aired specials on Selena include MTV, Investigation Discovery, The Biography Channel, A&E Network, while Spanish-language networks often air specials on Selena annually marking her death anniversary. Spanish-language documentaries airing on the death anniversary of Selena are among the most-watched programs in the history of American television, and often score record ratings for networks. One of the first documentary on Selena was on Univison's Primer Impacto on 4 April 1995. The documentary, titled Selena, A Star is Dimmed, was viewed by 2.09 million people becoming the second most viewed Spanish-language show in the history of American television, at the time. Networks were competing with each other to interview Saldívar about the shooting. When news broke that Arrarás was able to interview Saldívar, Univision's phone line were inundated with phone calls from major networks as far as Germany, requesting to use the interview on their networks. The interview on Primer Impacto was watched by 4.5 million viewers, becoming the number one program that night according to Nielsen ratings, and was among the most-watched Spanish-language program in American television history.
The news struck the Hispanic community extremely hard; many traveled thousands of miles to Selena's house, boutiques and the crime scene. By mid-afternoon, police were asked to form a detour as a line of automobiles began backing up traffic from the Quintanillas' houses. On the street where Selena had lived, gang graffiti and cacti distinguished the blue-collar community from other subdivisions across America. The chain-link fence in front of Selena's house became a shrine, festooned with mementoes. Fans from Puerto Rico and Wisconsin left messages and notes to Selena and the Quintanilla family. The majority of cars in Corpus Christi and cars traveling to Interstate 37 from Mexico turned their headlights on in her memory. Fans scribbled notes and messages on the door where Selena had been shot, and left handwritten messages on the doorstep. Soon after learning of Selena's death, people began theorizing about who had murdered her. Emilio Navaira's wife was believed to have shot Selena by fans, since many believed she was jealous of Selena and Navaira's relationship. Johnny Pasillas, Emilio's brother-in-law and manager, frantically called radio stations in an attempt to quash the jealous-lover rumor. Among the celebrities who believed in the rumor were record producer Manny Guerra, Pete Rodriguez, and American singer Ramon Hernandez. According to anchorwoman Arrarás, the death of Selena became "the most important news of the year for Hispanics." Texas Monthly editor Pamela Colloff wrote that the death reactions of Selena was equivalent of the reactions of a political assassination.
She had a "cult-like" following among Hispanics. She became a household name in the United States following her death and became part of the American pop culture. She became more popular in death than when she was alive. Her death reaction was compared to the deaths of musicians John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy. Selena became a cultural icon for Latinos who was seen as "a woman who was proud of her roots and achieved her dreams." According to Antonio Lopez of the Santa Fe New Mexican, the day Selena was killed "is a bookmark in time in the memories of many Latinos." According to Arrarás, "women imitated her, men worshiped her". Two deaths in California were reported following the outbreak of Selena's death. A drag queen planned to dress up as Selena for one of his upcoming performances, he was hit by a car and was left to die. Gloria de la Cruz auditioned for the role of Selena, she was later found dumped in a Los Angeles dumpster. Her killer had strangled her and set her body on fire.
Celebrities and politicians reactions
Spanish singer Julio Iglesias interrupted a recording session in Miami for a moment of silence. Among the celebrities who contacted the Quintanilla family following the news were Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Iglesias, and Madonna. Concerts throughout Texas were canceled. La Mafia canceled their Guatemala concert and flew back to Texas. Tejano singer Ramiro Herrera and dozens of other Tejano artists canceled their concerts. American singer-songwriter Rhett Lawrence published an ad on Billboard magazine's 22 April 1995 issue that said "music I heard with you was more than music. You will be deeply missed." Other celebrities took to radio stations to expressed their thoughts about Selena's death, including Stefanie Ridel, Jaime DeAnda (of Los Chamacos), and Shelly Lares. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey called Selena's life "short but significant" during her March 1997 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey told MTV that Selena's death was shocking to her because of "the way it had happened so abruptly in a young life." State senator Carlos Truan and state representative Solomon P. Ortiz reportedly mourned Selena's death. American music industry executive Daniel Glass told Texas Monthly that he believed Selena would have enjoyed greater career success had it not been for her death.
A few days later, Howard Stern mocked Selena's murder and burial, poked fun at her mourners, and criticized her music. Stern said, "This music does absolutely nothing for me. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul ... Spanish people have the worst taste in music. They have no depth." Stern's comments outraged and infuriated the Hispanic community in Texas. Stern played Selena's songs with gunshots in the background. After a disorderly conduct arrest warrant was issued in his name, Stern made an on-air statement, in Spanish, for his comments that he stressed were not made to cause "more anguish to her family, friends and those who loved her." The League of United Latin American Citizens boycotted Stern's show, finding his apology unacceptable. Texas retailers removed any products that were related to Stern. Sears and McDonalds sent out a disapproval letter to the media that addressed their stance against Stern's comments after fans believed they sponsored his show. Within a week, on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Stern and Robin Quivers (his African-American co-host) were asked if Stern's remarks about Selena were acceptable. Quivers decided not to talk about the situation, to avoid arguing with Stern. When Linda Ronstadt (a pop singer of Mexican-American heritage) appeared on the show, she and Quivers quickly got into an argument when Ronstadt defended Selena.
On April 12, 1995, two weeks after her death, George W. Bush (governor of Texas at the time) declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas. Bush said that Selena represented "the essence of south Texas culture." On Selena Day, 1,000 fans gathered at her grave and began to sing traditional Mexican folk songs; police were brought in to control the crowd. On the same day, a crowd of 3,000 attended an organized mass of the resurrection for Selena at Johnnyland Concert Park.
Some European Americans in Texas wrote to the editor of the Brazosport Facts during April and May, asking what the big deal was; some were also offended that Selena Day fell on Easter Sunday. Others agreed that "Easter is more important than Selena Day", and believed that everyone should let Selena rest in peace and go on with their lives. Mexican Americans in Texas wrote vociferously to the newspaper. Some agreed that others were too critical of Selena Day, and stated that they did not need to celebrate the day and should not have responded so rudely. Hispanic filmmaker Lourdes Portillo expressed that she didn't know who Selena was when everyone around her were saying that Selena was shot.
White Americans reported that when the news of Selena's death broke out, many of them asked who Selena was and said she was "not that important", telling Hispanics to "get over it". Author and Texas Monthly magazine contributor Joe Nick Patoski said that Anglo-Americans and Mexican Americans were divided in their reactions to Selena's death. Patoski said that Anglo-Americans "didn't understand what all the fuss was about." The line "Who's Selena?" was used in the 1997 biopic film on Selena when a White American store manager asked Hispanics running towards the singer for an autograph. White Americans felt that the scene with the White manager and Selena was "irrelevant" and "over dramatized", who were seen by Hispanic crowds as the only topic that they gathered from the movie. One fan expressed that to Hispanics the scene "happens all the time" to them and their friends and that they feel their community has been "ignored". Lauraine Miller also expressed that "Selena has opened my eyes", stating that she had become "more American". Another fan commented that in the United States "nobody ever lets you forget you are Mexican American."
At the time of Selena's death, 52% of all Latin music sales were generated by regional Mexican music, mostly Tejano music, which became one of the most popular Latin music genres. Selena catapulted the genre into its 1990s renaissance and brought Tejano music into its first marketable era. She was called the "Queen of Tejano music" by many media outlets.[a] Major record companies including EMI Records, SBK Records, Warner Music Group, CBS Records, and Sony Music began signing Tejano artists to compete in the Latin music industry. The Tejano market suffered and its popularity waned following Selena's death. Radio stations in the United States that played Tejano music switched to regional Mexican music, and by 1997, KQQK was the only radio station in the United States that played Tejano music non-stop. By the mid 2000s, radio stations in the United States no longer played Tejano music, larger auditoriums stopped hosting Tejano artists by 2007, and major record companies abandoned their Tejano artists after 1995. Selena remains the best-selling Tejano artist of all time, who continues to outsell living Tejano artists, and the last Tejano musician to have appeared on the US Billboard 200 chart since 2000. After Selena's death, Tejano music was replaced with Latin pop in the United States as the most popular Latin music genre.
On the day Selena was killed, record stores sold out of Selena's albums within hours; EMI Latin began pressing several million CDs and cassettes to meet the expected demand. Gloria Ballesteros, a sales representative of Southwestern Wholesalers in San Antonio, told Billboard that their inventory of 5,000 copies of Selena albums was sold out by the afternoon of Selena's death. Record stores who ordered more copies of the singer's recordings were told by EMI Latin representatives that they wouldn't be able to restock for a few days. EMI Latin shipped 500,000 units of Selena's recordings to record stores in two weeks following Selena's death. Her song, "Fotos y Recuerdos", was number four on the US Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart the day Selena was killed, and it peaked at number one on 15 April 1995. Four of her singles, "No Me Queda Mas", "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom", "Como la Flor", and "Amor Prohibido", re-entered the Hot Latin Tracks and the Regional Mexican Airplay chart on the issue dated 15 April 1995 on Billboard magazine. Selena's 1994 album, Amor Prohibido, re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 92, representing a 520% increase in sales with 12,040 units sold in the week Selena was murdered. The following week, the album rose to number 32 with 28,238 units sold, representing a 135% increase. Amor Prohibido, which was positioned at number four on March 31, took the first slot on the Top Latin Albums chart on the issue dated 15 April 1995. Three other recordings including, Entre a Mi Mundo (1992), Live! (1993), and 12 Super Exitos (1994), re-entered the Top Latin Albums chart, while Selena's albums took the numbers one through four slots on the Regional Mexican Albums chart that same week. Her albums sparked a buying frenzy for Latin music in Japan, Germany, and China.
Selena's crossover album that she was working on at the time of her death, Dreaming of You, was released in July 1995. The recording sold 175,000 copies its day of release in the U.S.—a then-record for a female vocalist—and sold 331,000 copies its first week. Selena became the third female artist in history to sell over 300,000 units in one week, after Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first album by a Hispanic artist to do so. Dreaming of You helped Selena to become the first solo artist to debut a posthumous album at number one. The recording was among the top ten best-selling debuts for a musician, and was the best-selling debut by a female act. Dreaming of You joined five of Selena's studio albums on the Billboard 200 chart simultaneously, making Selena the first female artist in Billboard history to accomplish this feat. The album was certified 35x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipping more than 3.5 million copies in the U.S. alone. As of 2015, the recording has sold five million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling Latin album of all-time in the United States. Five of Selena's albums generated $4 million in sales within five years. Selena was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, the Hard Rock Cafe's Hall of Fame in 1995, the South Texas Music Hall of Fame, and the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 2001. In December 1999, Selena was named the "top Latin artist of the '90s" and "Best selling Latin artist of the decade" by Billboard for her fourteen top-ten singles in the Top Latin Songs chart, including seven number-one hits.
Funeral and tributes
On the day Selena was killed, vigils and memorials were held throughout the states of Texas and California. Tejano 107 sponsored a candlelight vigil at the Sunken Gardens, while KRIO-FM sponsored its own at South Park Mall which was attended by 5,000 on March 31. Radio stations in Texas played her music non-stop. On April 1, Bayfront Plaza in Corpus Christi held a vigil which drew 3,000 fans. During the event, it was announced that a public viewing of the casket would be held at the Bayfront Auditorium the following day. Fans lined up for almost a mile. An hour before the doors opened rumors began circulating that the casket was empty, which prompted the Quintanilla family to have an open-casket viewing. About 30,000 to 40,000 fans passed by Selena's coffin. More than 78,000 signatures were signed in a condolence book. The same day an unannounced bilingual Sunday morning mass for Selena was held at the San Fernando Cathedral in downtown San Antonio, featuring a mariachi choir. Churches in the United States with a high population of Hispanics, Mexico, and Spain, held prayers for Selena. A reporter noticed the overflow of "mythic symbols" that were "attached to Selena" by fans such as the Christian symbols of angel, saint, healer, and savior. There was a tribute for the singer during a St. Patrick's Day celebration in a Catholic church in Houston, Texas. Father Sal DeGeorge decided to have a tribute to Selena on that day after people and especially children asked him what was being planned for the singer. That same day, a disc-jockey played Selena's music near the Church in a small park.
On April 3, 1995, six hundred guests (mostly family members) attended the burial of Selena at Seaside Memorial Park, which was broadcast live by a Corpus Christi and San Antonio radio station without the consent of her family. A Jehovah's Witness minister from Lake Jackson preached in English, quoting Paul the Apostle's words in 1 Corinthians 15. Hundreds of cars began circling the area. A special mass at the Los Angeles Sports Arena the same day drew a crowd of 4,000. Selena had been booked there that night for her Amor Prohibido Tour. The promoter charged admission, which upset Quintanilla, Jr. Modesto Lopez Portillo drove from El Salvador to Los Angeles to be the officiating priest for the gathering; the consul general of El Salvador attended as well. In Lake Jackson, 1,000 fans and friends gathered at the municipal park in neighboring Clute (where she had played at the Mosquito Festival in July 1994). The next day Our Lady of the Pillar, a church in Spain, held a mass for Selena which drew 450 people to their 225-seat church. In the weeks following her death, cars throughout Texas were seen painted with Selena's picture on them. On April 28, during a fireworks display for Buccaneer Days in Corpus Christi, the music was reworked to include "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" in memory of Selena. Selena Etc. became a shrine to the singer as fans left balloons, flowers, pictures, and poems. Street murals across Texas were found after Selena's death. In the months following her death, an average of 12,000 people visited her grave site and the Days Inn motel. The motel's manager rearranged the room numbers preventing people who did not want to sleep in the room where Selena had been shot. The singer became part of the Day of the dead celebration. In 1997 Selena was commemorated with a museum and a bronze life-sized statue (Mirador de la Flor in Corpus Christi), which are visited by hundreds of fans each week. Fans flocked to her statue and murals as a symbolism of self-identity, unionism, religious expression, resistance, self-expression, equality, liberation, passion, optimism, possibility, and "encouragement and hope to the poor."
Musicians took to music to express their thoughts on Selena or recorded compositions as tributes to the singer. Singers such as American country artist Tony Joe White, Haitian singer-songwriter Wyclef Jean, American tejano artists Pete Astudillo, Puerto Rican American group the Barrio Boyzz, Mexican American singer Graciela Beltran, American tejano artist Jennifer Pena, American hip-hop singer Lil Ray, American tejano artists Emilio Navaria, Bobby Pulido, Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz, Dominican salsa singer José Alberto "El Canario", Puerto Rican American salsa singers Ray Sepulveda, Michael Stuart, Manny Manuel, Puerto Rican American jazz singer Hilton Ruiz, American singer Jenni Rivera, Mexican singer Lupillo Rivera, Venezuelan rock singer Mikel Erentxun, Puerto Rican American singer Tony Garcia, and American rapper King L.
Selena's family and her former band, Los Dinos, held a tribute concert a week after the 10th anniversary of her murder on April 7, 2005. The concert, entitled Selena ¡VIVE!, was broadcast live on Univision and achieved a 35.9 household rating. It was the highest-rated and most-viewed Spanish-language television special in the history of American television. The special was also the number-one program (regardless of language) among adults ages 18 to 34 in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco; it tied for first in New York, beating that night's episode of Fox's American Idol. Among Hispanic viewers, Selena ¡VIVE! outperformed Super Bowl XLV between the Packers and the Steelers and the telenovela Soy Tu Dueña during the "most-watched NFL season ever among Hispanics".
In January 2015, it was announced that Selena would be celebrated with a two-day event called Fiesta de la Flor to mark two decades since her death in Corpus Christi. It is believed by the Corpus Christi Convention & Visitors Bureau that the event will attract about 50,000 visitors and bring $1 million to the local economy. Musical acts include Kumbia All-Starz, Perez, Los Lobos, Jay Perez, Little Joe y la Familia, Los Palominos, Stefani Montiel of Las 3 Divas, Girl in a Coma's Nina Diaz, Las Fenix, and previous The Voice competitor Clarissa Serna.
Within 20 minutes of Saldívar's surrender, she was taken to the downtown police station and placed in an interrogation room with Paul and Ray Rivera. Paul Rivera, who had investigated homicides since 1978, informed Saldívar of her right to an attorney, which she waived. When police investigators surrounded Saldívar's truck she had cried out, "I can't believe I killed my best friend". Within hours, she claimed that the shooting was accidental. Saldívar's bond was initially set at $100,000, but District Attorney Carlos Valdez had it raised to $500,000. When the bail was announced, people asked why the death penalty was not requested for Saldívar. The Nueces County jail was deluged with death threats and public calls for vigilante justice. Even some gang members in Texas were reported to have taken up collections to raise the bond for Saldívar so they could kill her when she was released. In prison, she faced more death threats from inmates. The Mexican Mafia, a dominant gang in the Texas penal system, reportedly placed a price on her head and spread the word that anyone who committed the crime would be a hero.
Saldívar's crime was punishable to up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Saldívar was kept at Nueces County jail under a suicide watch before her trial. The state had difficulty arranging defense counsel for Saldívar; a spokesperson commented that any lawyer defending Saldívar could face death threats. She was assigned to Douglas Tinker, paid by the people of Texas. His wife was fearful that they would suffer from community retribution, she asked Tinker not to take the case. Arnold Garcia, a former district prosecutor, was chosen by Tinker as his legal counsel. Valdez, who lived a few blocks away from the Quintanilla family, chose Mark Skurka as his legal counsel in the case. Mike Westergren presided over the case, which was moved to the Harris County Courthouse in Houston, Texas in fear that the case would not have an impartial jury. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Selena murder trial's publicity "rivaled that of the O.J. Simpson proceedings." Westergren ordered that the entire trial would not be televised or be taped recorded and limited the number of reporters in the courtroom to avoid a "repeat of the Simpson circus". The Chicago Tribune noticed how the divide in interest to the Selena murder trial was among Hispanics and White Americans. Donna Dickerson, a White American magazine publisher, told the Chicago Tribune that she had no interest in the trial because of Selena's "Hispanic background" and argued that Mexican Americans did not show the same enthusiasm when Elvis Presley was found dead. The Selena murder trial was called the "trial of the century" and the most important trial to the Hispanic population. The trial generated interest from Europe, South America, Australia, and Japan.
Saldívar pleaded not guilty, explaining that the shooting was accidental. In his opening statement, Valdez said he believed Saldívar "deliberately killed Selena." Valdez also called it a "senseless and cowardly" act because Selena was shot in the back. Tinker said that the shooting was accidental and denied rumors that Saldívar wanted to be romantically involved with Selena. On October 23, 1995, the jury deliberated for two hours before finding Saldívar guilty of murder. She received the maximum sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility in 30 years. On November 22, 1995, she arrived at the Gatesville Unit (now the Christina Crain Unit) in Gatesville, Texas, for processing. Saldívar is currently serving her sentence at Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She will be eligible for parole on March 30, 2025. Because of multiple internal death threats from incarcerated Selena fans, Saldívar was placed in isolation and spends 23 of every 24 hours alone in her 9 by 6 feet (2.7 by 1.8 m) cell.
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